Columbia mayor takes a stand against bigotry in annual address - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia mayor takes a stand against bigotry in annual address

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

It was not a traditional "State of the City" address.

Mayor Steve Benjamin ditched the podium and quickly got some help from a new friend – a computerized voice that helped drive home some of the points he was making.

"The Columbia Police Department has increased the percentage of officer diversity hires from 39% in 2015 to 68% in 2016,” the voice said at one point.

The mayor expounded on that point and highlighted recent accomplishments by the Columbia Police Department.

"I will say this, because the chief will strangle me," Mayor Benjamin said. "We need to pay our officers more and our firefighters and everyone else. In addition, the city is growing. We need more officers and that will come up in future council conversation.” 

In his speech, the mayor also said the process is underway to rebuild the Columbia canal.

"The water from the canal and some of our other sources meet the need of 400,000 people across this region. It is essential that it be done and be done well,” he told WIS after his address.

In the address, he also announced new initiatives to help children and bring Columbia's neighborhoods closer together. He said more development will soon be happening next to the award-winning Spirit Communications Park, too.
 
He ended by sharing his thoughts on diversity – comments likely spurred by President Donald Trump's travel ban.

"I refuse to let this city be torn apart by any purveyors of bigotry or hate,” the mayor said. "We're meant to be a place for all people. In this city, we speak 90 languages. We're from 200 different countries – countries across the world. We practice several faiths, and only in that inclusivity do we find strength."
 
He said Columbia will continue to be a "beacon light of hope" for all. In fact, he said the themes of inclusivity and welcoming go back to the city's founding.

WEB EXTRA: Read the entire text of Mayor Benjamin's 2017 State of the City Address.

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